Mexico's Party Food
Saveur|Fall 2019

Fortified with hominy, chiles, and often myriad pig parts, pozole is a celebratory dish in Mexico and beyond.

Max Falkowitz

Every time Steve Sando, the founder of California-based heirloom bean company Rancho Gordo, heads down to Mexico, he encounters a new kind of pozole. “I remember one I tasted in Oaxaca where the cooks used some puréed hominy to thicken the broth and cooked it with goat meat,” Sando says in a rapturous daze. “I still think about it to this day.”

After more than 40 trips across the country over 35 years, the bowls have added up: In Michoacán, a broth was stained green with fresh chiles, tomatillos, and ground pumpkin seeds. In Guerrero, a pale white variation was garnished with pork cracklings. In Acapulco, an unusual rojo sassed with tomatoes was fortified with shellfish instead of the typical pork. “Whichever one I ate last is my favorite,” he says with a chuckle.

An ancient stew of corn, fish or long-simmered meat, and a garden’s worth of vegetable toppings, pozole is Mexican party food. It’s the kind of labor-intensive but universally beloved dish to break out for holidays and special occasions. There is no known original pozole or single birthplace; it dates back to indigenous religious festivals well before the Hispanic conquest, and early Spanish texts shed little light on its history. As Mayan and other civilizations traded goods across ancient Mexico, pozole migrated along with them, even up north to native tribes in the American Southwest, where the cooks incorporated the local practice of roasting green chiles and it is now spelled “posole.” Today, Mexican pozole comes in red, green, and white varieties, and every region has its preferred proteins and garnishes. But the corn is nonnegotiable.

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